The Beginner’s Guide offers tools for those who wish to learn more about creating more inclusive, equitable communities
CHELMSFORD, MA (Aug. 31, 2021) – A few years ago, Dr. Christy Whittlesey, the Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator at Chelmsford Public Schools, noticed students were increasingly sharing their transgender or nonbinary gender status in school communities.
That topic became her dissertation and earned the UMass Lowell Education Department’s Outstanding Dissertation Award. It also spawned two books and she now finds herself a sought-after consultant on all issues involving transgender and nonbinary students.
Her second book, The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Trans Ally, is now available for pre-order from Jessica Kingsley Publishers and is also available anywhere books are sold online. In it, she puts the voices of transgender and nonbinary community members front and center and shares practical approaches to creating more inclusive spaces and striving towards allyship.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that diversity enriches our communities,” Dr. Whittlesey explained. “Sometimes people may be nervous talking about situations new to them. This is designed for the person who wants to be an ally of the transgender and nonbinary population and needs the tools. I interviewed a number of trans and nonbinary folks and the people they described as allies in their lives and collected their stories and perspectives on allyship.”
The Beginner’s Guide follows her first book, It’s OK To Say They: Tips for Educator Allies of Transgender and Nonbinary Students, which was published in 2019 (Dave Burgess Consulting).
“A few years ago, I noticed that in our district, districts around the state and through discussions at the national level, an increasing number of students were sharing their gender status as trans or nonbinary within school communities,” Dr. Whittlesey said. “At the same time, I also observed that often very good educators and well-intentioned educators did not always have the knowledge and training required to adequately support these students.”
Dr. Whittlesey completed her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Evaluation in 2019. In the process, she worked with transgender and nonbinary students in Massachusetts to learn what they were experiencing in schools and what changes they thought were necessary to create a more gender-friendly environment. Her award-winning dissertation followed.
Dr. Whittlesey never planned a follow-up to It’s OK To Say They, but it made its way to the folks at Kingsley, who encouraged her to go deeper into the subject. Written in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic, she resorted to conducting her interviews online and outdoors in person. Her goal was to target quarters other than schools.
“It builds on the first book, which focused on schools, to bring awareness to broader areas such as workspaces, families and communities,” Dr. Whittlesey said.
Both books are fundraisers benefitting the trans community. Proceeds from It’s OK to Say They benefit San Diego LGBTQIA+ PRIDE Youth Outreach Programs, while half the author royalties from The Beginner’s Guide help fund The Gender Reveal Podcast Grant and Mutual Aid Program, which provides financial assistance to transgender and nonbinary people of color across the globe.
Dr. Whittlesey has been an educator at Chelmsford Public Schools since 2007 and became the Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator in 2010. Both The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Trans Ally and It’s OK To Say They are available wherever books are sold online.
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.